Opponents unearth a scandal about your candidate. The race is close and heated. You are struggling to get the electorate to resonate with your candidate’s message. The hours are long and the work is seemingly endless. If you work in the political sphere, you know all too well the common stressors and challenges you encounter during an election cycle. From fundraising experts to campaign advisors, there is always more work to be done.
The work is rewarding and intense, making it the ideal profession for people who love the thrill of the chase and taste of victory. In addition to the benefits, it is important for political workers to find ways outside of work to reduce their stress levels and stay on track for success. After all, an overly stressed employee isn’t a productive employee. Stress doesn’t just directly affect people’s work lives, it can also impact the body’s ability to function, which could significantly deter their efficiency and comfort levels in the office.
What does stress do to the body?
Occasional heightened stress levels aren’t something to worry about, as there will likely be many moments during the campaign where you feel your body reacting to thrilling or overwhelming situations. It is chronic stress that should be cause for concern, as it can lead to a wide range of symptoms that may negatively affect the overall well-being of the body. Some of these problems include insomnia, depression and anxiety, along with cardiovascular, immune system, respiratory, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal issues.
Long-term stress can severely impact people’s ability to stay focused at work or relax when they arrive home. Various research over the years indicates that stress levels among American workers have steadily risen through the last few decades. As many as 8 in 10 workers report feeling regularly stressed on the job. Nearly half describe their work as being “very” or “extremely” stressful. As politics is not likely to slow down anytime soon, in order to stay effective on the campaign trail, here are eight ways to reduce stress after work:
1. Unplug, log off and avoid after hours work
Many people who enter into the political field do so because they love a challenge and the thrill of a fast-paced, high-pressure work environment. Though not every election will be as high-profile or nail-biting as the recent 2016 presidential election, even local races have the power to heighten campaign workers’ stress levels. A little bit of stress can be a good thing for keeping people alert and on their toes, but too much can become a mental, physical and emotional block, impeding on their ability to work well.
This is why you must unplug, log off or simply put away any extra work after clocking out. There needs to be an appropriate amount of work-life balance for you to continue to be effective over time. If you are constantly answering emails, phone calls or making decisions long after you leave work, you may begin to feel as if your home is an extension of your office. Learn how to get out of “work mode” as soon as you walk through your front door to avoid rising stress levels.
2. Eat right
While it might be difficult for political managers to eat a well-balanced diet on the road or when times get busy, it’s important not to succumb to bad eating habits. Fast food, fatty snacks and sugary drinks might be satisfying in the moment, but they can wreak havoc on the body’s immune system and further exacerbate stress levels. As a healthy mind and diet are closely related, you should incorporate fruits, vegetables and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids into your daily meals. Trading in a fast food burger for a fresh tuna sandwich at work, or a nice salmon dinner at home can work wonders for the brain.
3. Get active
Regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. While you might not be able to get in a morning jog every day, it is important to stay active throughout the work week. Whether this means having a short yoga session in the office during lunch or waking up a little earlier a couple times a week for a run, exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels. Regular exercise doesn’t have to be an hour-long workout session at the gym, but any sort of heightened movement releases endorphins and can instantly improve your mood.
4. Spend time with hobbies
Do you love to fish? Maybe you prefer cooking a good meal or curling up with a good book? Whatever your hobbies may be, don’t let a hectic work schedule keep you from winding down after a busy day in the office. You might love what you do, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a movie or go dancing with a loved one from time to time. The more you do outside of the office that doesn’t involve work, the less likely it will be that you will carry around feelings of stress throughout the day.
Even just thinking about going for a swim or painting after work may minimize yoru stress levels. This is because, if you know that there is a break in your workflow and schedule (a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel), you may be more likely to concentrate wholeheartedly on what you are doing. Remember that just because you have outside hobbies, this doesn’t mean you are any less dedicated to the valuable work you are doing on the campaign trail. It simply makes you a more well-rounded, less-stressed individual.
5. Establish politics-free zones
Much like the previously mentioned “unplugging” tip, you should seriously consider establishing politics-free zones within your homes. During tense political races, it can be tempting to talk at the dinner table or get into heated debates with friends or family members with opposing viewpoints, but these situations do not help the de-stressing process. While it might be necessary to bring loved ones up to speed about work, it’s vital for campaign workers to not become consumed with their work outside of the office.
Try reminding loved ones to avoid discussing certain topics or watching the news when you’re in the room. While it’s challenging in the day of the 24/7 news cycle and social media prevalence to get away from the topic of politics altogether, with a little bit of patience and practice, you can set up these politics-free areas in the home or in your life that will help lower your stress levels over time.
6. Practice self-care
You cannot be a proactive, engaging campaign advisor who cares about the electorate if you are unable to prioritize your own needs. Though you may feel like you are a dedicated public servant who is working toward a worthy cause, if you are unable to take care of your own physical, emotional and mental needs, you might not be thinking as clearly as you need to be. Practice self-care, such as being mindful, meditating and relaxing, to stay on track for success during your campaign.
7. Get plenty of rest
Though it might be difficult to catch the standard eight to nine hours of sleep a night during the last leg of an election cycle, it’s vital for campaign workers to get plenty of rest. A tired body equates to a stressed body, which significantly reduces one’s chances of maintaining high productivity levels. Political races are full of fast-paced moments where workers need to be on top of their game at any given moment. If they are too tired or exhausted, this could lead to serious errors or miscalculations on the campaign trail.
8. Turn to loved ones for support
Though your loved ones might not be able to completely relate to the craziness surrounding you at work, they will likely be willing to listen to you and support you when times are stressful. Simply being able to turn to someone for support can do wonders for your stress levels. Spend time in and outside the home with friends and family who are cheering you on to detox from the stress you experience during the day.
Don’t let fear of stress keep you from the career of your dreams. With a Master’s in Political Management, you can become a catalyst for change in the political sphere. The degree can equip you with the skills and strategies you need to be ready to thrive in a stressful and challenging political landscape. In this program, you will enroll in a wide variety of classes, ranging from Campaign Strategy to Grassroots Engagement, which will take your political knowledge to the next level.
In the George Washington University Master’s in Political Management program, we encourage our students to move beyond political theory into campaign reality. Our classes and skilled faculty will aid you in your journey to political management success. For more details about how an online program can support you while you are already working in the political sector or before you decide to make a career switch, visit the George Washington University online.
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